Cau­li­flower is sur­pris­ingly ver­sa­tile

The Hamilton Spectator - - FOOD - SARA MOUL­TON

Un­til pretty re­cently, there was noth­ing sexy about cau­li­flower.

Boiled or steamed, it’s bland at best. But roast­ing or sautée­ing cau­li­flower is a dif­fer­ent story. The veg­gie’s nat­u­ral sug­ars caramelize and its tasty in­ner cau­li­flower sud­denly blos­soms. Think pop­corn with an at­ti­tude.

Cau­li­flower is sur­pris­ingly ver­sa­tile, too. Pulsed in a food pro­ces­sor, it ends up look­ing and feel­ing like white rice. In­deed, given that it’s high in fi­bre and an as­sort­ment of vi­ta­mins and min­er­als, cau­li­flower is a healthy al­ter­na­tive to white rice.

In the in­ter­est of coax­ing out cau­li­flower’s best flavour, I have cooked this recipe’s al­lot­ment as if it were fried rice, sautée­ing it un­til golden. The “rice” is then in­fused with the usual Asian sus­pects — scal­lions, ginger, gar­lic, soy sauce and sesame oil — and bulked up with mush­rooms, ba­con and peas. (Vege­tar­i­ans are wel­come to swap in some tofu for the Cana­dian ba­con.)

Won­der­ful as it is the first time around, this dish is also the per­fect foil for left­overs.

Steak, chicken, shrimp, other cooked veg­eta­bles? What­ever’s sit­ting in the re­frig­er­a­tor and await­ing its se­cond chance, toss it in.

And if you need an ex­cuse to go Asian, con­sider the Lu­nar New Year, which be­gan on Jan. 28.

Oth­er­wise, feel free to en­joy this recipe year-round.

Fried Cau­li­flower “Rice” with Shi­itakes, Cana­dian Ba­con and

MAKES 4 SERV­INGS

1 small cau­li­flower (about 1¾ pounds) ¼ cup plus ½ ta­ble­spoon veg­etable oil, di­vided 2 large eggs Kosher salt and freshly ground black pep­per 4 ounces Cana­dian ba­con, cut into medium dice 2 ounces sliced shi­itake mush­rooms 1½ bunches scal­lions, sliced thin (white and green parts kept sep­a­rate — you will need about ½ cup of the whites and 1/3 cup of the greens) 2 tea­spoons minced gar­lic 1 ta­ble­spoon finely grated fresh ginger 1 cup blanched fresh or thawed frozen peas 1 tbsp low-sodium soy sauce 2 tsp sesame oil ¼ cup pine nuts, toasted

Start to fin­ish: 1 hour (40 ac­tive) Re­move the core and chop the cau­li­flower roughly into 1 to 1½inch pieces. In a food pro­ces­sor pulse the cau­li­flower in 2-cup amounts un­til chopped into rice­size pieces (you should have about 4 cups). In a large non-stick or stick­re­sis­tant skil­let over medium-high, heat 1 ta­ble­spoon of the veg­etable oil.

In a small bowl, lightly beat the eggs with a ta­ble­spoon of wa­ter, a pinch of salt and some pep­per and add the eggs to the pan. Tilt the pan to spread the eggs all around to make a flat pan­cake. Cook un­til al­most set, 30 to 45 sec­onds. Turn over the egg (you can cut it in a few pieces to make it eas­ier, us­ing the side of a non-stick pan-safe spat­ula) and cook for an­other 10 sec­onds. Trans­fer the cooked eggs to a cut­ting board.

Add 1 ta­ble­spoon of the veg­etable oil, the Cana­dian ba­con and the shi­itakes to the pan and cook, stir­ring oc­ca­sion­ally, un­til the ba­con is browned at the edges, about six min­utes. Trans­fer the ba­con mush­room mix­ture to a bowl with a slot­ted spoon. Re­duce the heat to medium-low, add ½ ta­ble­spoon of the re­main­ing oil and the white part of the scal­lion to the pan, and cook, stir­ring oc­ca­sion­ally, about two min­utes. Add the gar­lic and ginger, and cook, stir­ring, one minute. Trans­fer the mix­ture to the bowl with the ba­con mix­ture and re­turn the skil­let to the heat.

Add the re­main­ing 2 ta­ble­spoons veg­etable oil to the skil­let, then add the cau­li­flower and a hefty pinch of salt, press­ing it flat with the back of the spat­ula. Cook un­til it is golden brown in spots, turn­ing it over with the spat­ula, about 10 to 12 min­utes.

While the “rice” is cook­ing slice the egg into strips and add it along with the peas to the bowl with the ba­con.

When the “rice” is nicely crisped, add the con­tents of the ba­con bowl, the peas, soy sauce and sesame oil to the skil­let and cook, stir­ring, un­til the mix­ture is heated through. Trans­fer the fried cau­li­flower “rice” to four bowls and top each por­tion with some of the sliced scal­lion greens and the pine nuts.

Per serv­ing: 483 calo­ries (350 from fat); 39 grams fat (4 g sat­u­rated; 1 g trans fats); 121 mil­ligrams choles­terol; 665 mg sodium; 20 g car­bo­hy­drate; 7 g fi­bre; 7 g sugar; 15 g pro­tein.

SARA MOUL­TON, THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Roast­ing or sauteéing cau­li­flower is a dif­fer­ent story. The veg­gie’s nat­u­ral sug­ars caramelize and its tasty in­ner cau­li­flower sud­denly blos­soms. Think pop­corn with an at­ti­tude.

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